Participatory Ranking Methodology (PRM)

A rapid, mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) assessment tool that allows community members and project stakeholders to communicate their needs and to identify local resources. Data collection comes from group exercises, in which various community members are gathered in an open-forum that is systematic and controlled, and collectively asked to provide their opinions on various community needs-based questions. Information comes from one primary question (“framing question”) that is asked in a group setting by a PRM facilitator. It is imperative that questions be created to allow for detailed responses from group participants. More than one question may be asked of a group, but efforts should be made to delineate each question into separate exercises. Although participation is at the individual level, questions posed should elicit responses about the community, not the individual. Two people are required for conducting a group exercise—a note taker and a facilitator. Group activities follow a P-R-M sequencing method: P= Pile (the facilitator poses a question to the group, the group provides responses; themes are recognized and given representative objects; objects are then placed in a pile); R= Ranking (through group consensus, objects, or issues, are ranked by importance); M=Meaning (understanding of the meaning of each theme is sought throughout the exercise). One group exercise lasts roughly 30 minutes. PRM produces information that can be readily processed and analyzed. Ideally, in each community assessed, individuals chosen for group participation should be recruited and selected based on the following three broad categorical affiliations—community leaders, prominent community groups, and community groupings such as age, gender, ethnicity, etc. Depending on the setting, group exercises can occur both indoors and outdoors, although group facilitators should always be conscious of outsiders listening or peering in (especially in more public venues).

Related Publications

Stark, L., Ager, A., Wessells, M., & Boothby, N. (2009). Developing culturally relevant indicators of reintegration for girls formerly associated with armed groups, in Sierra Leone using a participative ranking methodology. Intervention, 7(1), 4-16.

Stark, L., Bancroft, C., Cholid, S., Sustikarini, A., & Meliala, A. (2012). A qualitative study of community-based child protection mechanisms in Aceh, Indonesia. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, 7(3), 228-236.

Fund, P. (2011). Evaluation of UNFPA’s Provision of Dignity Kits in Humanitarian and Post-Crisis Settings.

What it measures




Communities in humanitarian settings


Ager, A., Stark, L., Sparling, T., & Ager, W. (2011). Rapid Appraisal in Humanitarian Emergencies Using Participatory Ranking Methodology (PRM). Program on Forced Migration and Health, Columbia University.